Learn to Expect the Unexpected

Contributed by Ricardo Ordonez, the CFO of International Rubber Products, Inc.

As an entrepreneur, I have to keep an eye on a lot of things. Whether it’s in America or overseas, tasks can slip through my fingers before I realize they have hit the floor. One of the keys to being a successful international businessperson is to prepare for unexpected surprises. I learned how to do that the hard way.

My company has been conducting business in China for more than six years. Since 2001, our relationship with the Chinese has evolved from outsourcing to joint venture to a wholly owned foreign enterprise. Our international business was going great until we encountered a big—and expensive—surprise.An employee embezzled approximately $250,000. He lived in China for more than five years and stole from us every chance he had. In one instance, he purchased a company car for $10,000 and invoiced the company for $20,000. That same car cost approximately $30,000.

We thought we were saving money, but we trusted the wrong guy. As we learned more about the situation and began to closely monitor our foreign investments, we realized these errors resulted from our lack of attention. Because we were focusing too much time and energy on domestic issues, we discovered our performance abroad had been deteriorating. We addressed these issues, garnered a better understanding of our international relations and made over-arching changes.

Now we visit our overseas facility monthly and conduct face-to-face goal-setting, problem-solving and performance-measuring meetings. Doing this can prevent future problematic issues. We can also continue to build our relationship with our international management team. Their performance has increased, and so has our understanding of one another, our appreciation of mutual differences and our common goals. Being prepared is crucial in any business. That type of comprehensive planning to expect the unexpected is priceless.

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